As we continue our summer teaching series in the minor prophets, "Major On The Minors", we begin a journey today through the book of Haggai.
For a bit of context to what the Lord and to say to His people through Haggai and why, we need to step back in time a bit.
When King Solomon reigned over Israel (970-930 BC), he constructed a magnificent Temple in Jerusalem. The God-given blueprints for this Temple were given to Solomon by his father, King David, just before he died and instruction was given to follow them to the most minute of details.
When Solomon was crowned King at around 20 years old, he did just that.
The construction of the Great Temple took around 7 years to complete and with the final stone in place, people traveled from all over the ancient world just to get a look at it.
The Jews regarded the Temple as it’s national treasure and revered the Temple because it marked the place where God would dwell with man
Shortly before drawing his last breath, King David shared what the Lord had revealed to Him about His son Solomon and this Temple.
1 Chronicles 28:6-7 “Your son Solomon is the one who is to build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. I will establish his kingdom forever if he perseveres in keeping my commands and my ordinances as he is doing today.”
As a young King, Solomon loved the Lord. In fact, 1 Kings 3 tells us that he walked in the statutes of his father David. The chapter goes on to tell us that after he’d traveled to Gibeon to worship the Lord through extravagant sacrifice, the Lord was so pleased with him that he appeared to him in a dream and invited him to ask for anything he wanted.
Solomon doesn’t ask for fame, power, wealth or prestige – but wisdom and God gives him just that.
So, at the outset of his rule over Israel, Solomon did indeed persevere in keeping Gods commands.
Yet, things changed. They changed dramatically.
Instead of trusting the Lord to protect and defend Israel from the Pagan nations that surrounded it, Solomon relied on his political savvy, working agreements, treaties, and business deals in his diplomacy.
That might sound innocent enough but the main tenet of his foreign diplomacy was marriage. Particularly through marrying women from pagan nations (which was expressly forbidden by God).
Eventually, he’d had 700 wives and 300 concubines, to be exact.
Many of these wives not only brought their luggage to the Palace but also their idols. This had consequence.
1 Kings 11:4-6 “His wives turned his heart away to follow other gods. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been. Solomon followed Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the abhorrent idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and unlike his father David, he did not remain loyal to the Lord”
King Solomons personal drift soon gave was to corporate drift.
Solomons idolatry led to idolatry among the people he was called to lead.
They saw the shrines to Pagan gods that he built for his wives constructed along the hillsides in Jerusalem and could smell the incense used to worship pagan gods burning and concluded that if their own King was championing a more diverse approach to spirituality, they should follow suit.
In time, Israel would repeatedly give itself over to idolatry.
GOD WILL NOT BE MOCKED.
The very first of the 10 Commandments reads, "You shall have no other gods before Me" – And there was consequence for disobeying this command.
Exodus 20:5 “Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me”
That’s exactly what takes place.
In the years after Solomon, Israel drifted further and further from God and as a result, God used the massive and evil Babylonian Empire to bring judgment to His people. This is loving discipline.
In 586 BC, the Babylonian army, under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar, marched into Judah, defeated Gods people, destroyed the walls of the city, took the Jews captive as slaves, and demolished the city of Jerusalem.
The entire landscape was laid to waste. Nothing was left.
Visual image: In New Orleans, we toured the WW2 Museum on our free day. Images and video clips of Berlin after the Allied Forces finished bombing it. Complete ruin.
That’s what the once bustling city of Jerusalem would have looked like after the Babylonians marched through…and when the smoke finally cleared, the saddest sight of all…the majestic Temple had been reduced to a pile of rubble.
For over a half of a century, the Jews remained captive to the Babylonians and weren’t permitted to travel back to Jerusalem. Then God raised up the Persian Empire to defeat Babylon and their ruler Cyrus, gave permission to the Jews to return to their home under the leadership of a Governor named Zerubbabel (they had no King at this time).
The 50,000 jews who returned to Judah found the city just as they’d left it. In ruins. Upon their return, Ezra the Priest, led a monumental effort to rebuild the Temple
Due to their zeal and diligence, together they accomplished the monumental task of relaying the foundation for the Temple and held a great celebration (Ezra 3)
Ezra 3:11 “They sang with praise and thanksgiving to the Lord: “For he is good; his faithful love to Israel endures forever.” Then all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s house had been laid.”
BUT THEN, THE WORKED STOPPED. For around 15 years. The reasons are plentiful.
They worked hard to re-establish their nation. Roads, bridges, infrastructure, markets re-opened, fields were planted, crops harvested – life in Judah began to look like it once did...yet there was one glaring exception: The Temple.
IT’S AT THIS TIME that God speaks to His people through a prophet named Haggai.
Over a period of about 5 months beginning in the summer of 520 BC, God would communicate four short messages through this prophet.
The emphasis of these messages: It’s time to move forward in rebuilding the Temple.
Let’s look for a moment the first several verses of chapter 1 and at the first of these four messages.
In the Lords first message to the people, He reminds them that:
1.Spiritually Stuck People Attempt To Rationalize Their Inactivity
The call placed upon their lives was not unclear. They were to rebuild the Temple.
THIS WAS NOT SIMPLY A BUILDING – It wasn’t a mere brick and mortar structure. While today, Gods presence on earth is revealed through His people, in Old Testament, prior to God sending His Spirit to indwell His people, the Temple represented Gods presence on earth.
What conclusion would the Pagan nations that surrounded them draw about the God of the Israelites as they saw them going on with their lives while the place where God desired to dwell lay in ruins?
What conclusion can we rightly draw about the spiritual condition of the Jews when worship was such a low priority for them that they neglect the Temple?
Aware of what their spiritual inactivity and delayed obedience reveals about them, they began to rationalize what the work on the Temple has ceased for 15 years
Haggai 1:2 “These people say: The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.”
What they were saying; "We intend to rebuild the Temple, and we KNOW that this is what we’re called to do but just not right now. The timing just isn’t right."
This is rationalization 101 (rationalize – tell ourselves rational lies)
Unfortunately, some of their reasoning might sound familiar to us.
- We’re busy with other things. We’ll get around to it.
- The job is too big.
- It’s too expensive.
- There is opposition. When it settles down, we’ll get to work.
- This Temple has been rubble for over a half a century, we’re actually doing pretty well without it
- Undoubtably, there some of the Preachers in the city – though God had clearly spoken through Ezra and commanded the rebuilding of the Temple, made an effort to spiritualize their disobedience, saying that the time of captivity prophesied in Jeremiah 25 and 29 had been not fulfilled quite yet so we need to wait.
No matter what their reasoning was, when they said, “the time has not yet come”, they were saying, “we know better than God and we’ll worship & obey Him on our terms and in our timing”
This mindset is foreign to the Christian faith.
The Lord then speaks through Haggai, demolishing their rationalization and exposing their rebellious hearts.
Haggai 1:3-4 “The word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?”
The Lord asks, “So you’re saying the timing was right for you to construct lavish homes for yourselves but not to rebuild Mine? You’ve determined that the cause and reputation of the Kingdom could be set aside while you first build your own?"
2.God Is Not Obligated To Bless A Mess
When your heart is not right, your life won’t be either.
a. Those Who Are Spiritually Stuck Should Not Expect Contentment
Haggai 1:5-6 “Now, the Lord of Armies says this: “Think carefully about your ways: You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough to be satisfied. You drink but never have enough to be happy. You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm. The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.”
“Think carefully about your ways” – Is a Hebrew figure of speech meaning “consider the road you’re now traveling”
What’s this road led to? Not contentment.
b. Those Who Are Spiritually Stuck Should Not Anticipate God To Move On Their Behalf
The Lord declares, "I’ve told you what to do. I’ve commanded that My house be rebuilt but you’ve been stubborn and rebellious. You’re blatantly disregarding spiritual things while prioritizing your own comfort."
Haggai 1:10-11 “So on your account, the skies have withheld the dew and the land its crops. I have summoned a drought on the fields and the hills, on the grain, new wine, fresh oil, and whatever the ground yields, on people and animals, and on all that your hands produce.”
3. There’s Hope For The Spiritually Stuck
Just because you’re stuck doesn’t mean you have to stay there. These people had been spiritually still for 15 years and weren’t living in the joy, provision and abundance of the Lord as a result of stagnancy.
Haggai 1:12 “Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the entire remnant of the people obeyed the Lord their God and the words of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. So the people feared the Lord”
What finally moved them to action? The text tells us!
It wasn’t simply feeling of being unfulfilled or disappointed and disillusioned about their lives. They’d felt that for some time. It wasn’t because of the persuasive and motivational speech of a charismatic leader or emotional manipulation of a carefully choreographed worship service.
But rather, “They obeyed the Lord their God and the words of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him” – they were compelled by the power Gods Word.
THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING AND ACTIVE / It’s sharper than any two-edged sword. It wounds and heals, sometimes simultaneously! It is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe!
If this is resonating with you, it’s entirely possible if not probable, that right now you are thinking…"I want to move forward but I just cant."
Look at Haggai 1:13 “Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, delivered the Lord’s message to the people: “I am with you—this is the Lord’s declaration.”